Good day and God’s blessings to the Virgin Islands.
We are indeed blessed today as we can say that we have come through yet another Atlantic Hurricane Season safely and with very few effects on our shores. I think the entire Virgin Islands can feel immensely grateful that storms or hurricanes did not place any additional burdens upon us during what has already been a burdensome year.
What we cannot do, however, is become complacent. Our Territory may have been spared, but this season has been one for the record books. We saw 30 named storms, more than have ever been recorded in a single season. There were 13 hurricanes, which is more than double that of an average season. There were six major hurricanes, compared to the three major hurricanes seen in an average season. For only the second time in history, the usual alphabetical list of storm names was exhausted, causing forecasters to utilise the Greek Alphabet naming protocol for the last nine storms of the season. There were even two systems that formed before the official start of the hurricane season on June 1, and this is the sixth consecutive year wherein we have seen systems form ahead of the season.
All this means that it is incumbent on us as a Government – on all of us as a Territory, to be diligent and continue to work to be ready for storms and other hazards.
I am pleased to report that your Government is doing its part. Cabinet recently approved a Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy that will guide our disaster risk management efforts for the next five years. We know that preparing for and responding to disasters and emergencies takes an entire-Territory approach, and that is precisely why this Comprehensive Strategy was needed. The document outlines the duties and responsibilities of all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies; and identifies the roles of key partners such as regional and international agencies, private businesses, and local community-based organisations.
Officers within the Department of Disaster Management have been working diligently to complete upgrades to the National Early Warning and Multi-hazard Alert System. Emergency sirens, weather stations, and backup communications systems such as high frequency radio units mean that the entire Territory – including our populations on the Sister Islands – will have access to emergency information even after a major impact. Decentralised contingency stocks have also been set up in key communities around the Territory to enable rapid access to potentially critical response supplies even in some of our more remote communities.
Several of the Territory’s land-based emergency shelters received improvements under an ongoing partnership between the Government of the Virgin Islands, the European Union, and the Pan-American Health Organization. The Virgin Islands Shipping Registry assessed the Territory’s full stock of marine shelters so that the fishers and other boaters once again have access to anchorages for securing their vessels.
Our security and first responders remained ready throughout the season, and responded rapidly where needed to ensure that our people had continued access to essential services and utilities.
This year we saw teams from the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities such as the Departments of Public Works ensuring that our ghuts remained clear and our roadways remained passable despite heavy rainfall.
From what I have observed, many of you were likewise doing your part to be ready this season. You monitored the weather updates so you could stay informed; you updated your family and business preparedness plans; you took steps to protect your property; you assembled your supplies and essential documents; and, because you are a people filled with BVILOVE, you checked in on your vulnerable neighbours, friends and relatives to provide assistance where possible.
As we reflect on the passing of this historic 2020 hurricane season, I must say TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY! I encourage each and every one of you to continue to embrace the mission we are all on together to be a prepared and resilient Territory.
Thank you, and may God bless these beautiful Virgin Islands.